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Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, heat levels and ocean acidification all set new records in 2021, while some glaciers reached tipping point, according to latest flagship report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), published on Wednesday.

The state of the climate 2021 says extreme weather – the daily face of climate change – has taken a heavy toll on human lives, triggered shocks to food and water security, and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses last year.

The report, which describes even clearer signs that human activity is causing damage on a planetary scale – to our lands, our oceans and our atmosphere – also confirms that the past seven years have been the hottest on record. , with the global temperature in 2021 reaching about 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.

It’s only a matter of time before we see another hottest year on record. Our climate is changing before our eyes. Heat trapped by man-made greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come,” warned WMO Chef Petteri Taalas. “Sea level rise, heat and ocean acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented.”

A plan for renewable energy

Calling the report a “dismal litany of humanity’s failure to address climate change”, the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that while time is running out to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, there is a “lifeline” right in front of us.

“We need to end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition before incinerating our only home… Transforming energy systems is a low-hanging fruit,” he stressed in a video message.

Stressing that renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar are readily available and, in most cases, cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels, the UN chief offered five critical actions to accelerate the energy transition, which he called the “21st Century Peace Project”.

1. Treat renewable energy technologies as essential global public goods

This means removing barriers to knowledge sharing and technology transfer, including intellectual property constraints.

Guterres called for a new global coalition on battery storage led by governments and bringing together technology companies, manufacturers and financiers to accelerate innovation and deployment.

2. Secure, scale up and diversify supply components and raw materials for renewable energy technologies

Supply chains for renewable energy technologies and raw materials are concentrated in a handful of countries, and greater international coordination is needed to overcome this barrier.

3. Building Frameworks and Reforming Fossil Fuel Bureaucracies

UN chief calls on governments to speed up and streamline solar and wind project approvals, modernize grids and set ambitious renewable energy targets that provide certainty for investors, developers, consumers and producers .

4. Move subsidies away from fossil fuels

Every year, governments around the world pay around half a trillion dollars to artificially lower the price of fossil fuels, more than triple the subsidies given to renewable energy.

“While people are suffering from high prices at the pump, the oil and gas industry is raking in billions from a distorted market. This scandal must end,” stresses António Guterres.

5. Private and public investments in renewable energy must triple

UN chief calls for adjustment of risk frameworks and more flexibility to develop revolving finance.

“It is time to relaunch the transition to renewable energies before it is too late”, urged the Secretary-General.

Climate emergency

The UN chief’s plan is long overdue, at a time when extreme weather conditions have continued to impact the lives of millions of people in recent weeks, as seen with the emergency of the drought in the Horn of Africa, deadly floods in South Africa and extreme heat in India. and Pakistan.

the WMO World Climate Status report complements the latest assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which only included data up to 2019, and it will be used as a negotiating document at the upcoming UN climate conference in Egypt (COP 27) later this year.

Here are some of its key findings:

greenhouse gas concentrations

Levels reached a new global high in 2020 and continued to rise in 2021, with carbon dioxide concentration reaching 413.2 parts per million worldwide, a 149% increase from pre-industrial levels.

“We have broken records in the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide and above all the carbon dioxide record is striking; we have not seen any improvement despite the lockdowns caused by COVID in 2020, so concentrations continue to grow,” says WMO chief Petteri Taalas.

ocean heat

Another record. The upper 2000m depth of ocean water continued to warm in 2021 and is expected to continue warming in the future – a change that is irreversible on time scales of centuries to millennia and affects deep marine ecosystems such as coral reefs.

ocean acidification

Due to the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) that the ocean absorbs (about 23% of annual emissions), its waters are becoming increasingly acidic.

This has consequences for organisms and ecosystems, and also threatens human food security and tourism.

The drop in PH level also means that the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere also decreases.

“90% of the excess heat that we have produced on the planet is stored in the ocean”, informs Professor Taalas.

The sea level rises

Sea level has risen by a record 4.5 mm per year over the period 2013-2021, mainly due to accelerated loss of ice mass from the ice sheets.

This has major implications for hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers and increases vulnerability to tropical cyclones.


The world’s glaciers that scientists use as a benchmark have thinned by 33.5 meters since 1950, 76% since 1980.

In 2021, glaciers in Canada and the northwestern United States experienced record ice mass loss due to heat waves and fires in June and July.

Greenland also experienced exceptional melting in mid-August and the first rainfall recorded at its peak.

heat waves

Heat broke records in western North America and the Mediterranean in 2021. Death Valley, California reached 54.4°C on July 9, which equates to a similar value in 2020 as the highest recorded in the world since at least the 1930s, and Syracuse in Sicily reached 48.8°C.

A heat wave in British Columbia, Canada, has claimed more than 500 lives and fueled devastating wildfires.

Floods and droughts

Flood caused economic losses of 17.7 billion dollars in the Chinese province of Henan, as well as 20 billion in Germany. It was also a factor leading to heavy loss of life.

Droughts affected many parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa, South America, Canada, western United States, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey.

Drought in the Horn of Africa has intensified through 2022. East Africa faces the very real prospect that the rains will fail for a fourth consecutive season, placing Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in a drought of the duration not seen in the past 40 years. .

“These [climate] impacts are unevenly distributed. If you live in Central America, South America, Central, East or West Africa, South Asia or a small island developing state, you are 15 times more likely to die from a climate-related impact or climate-related extreme weather,” says the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Climate Action, Selwin Hart.

· Food safety

The combined effects of conflict, extreme weather events and economic shocks, further exacerbated by the COVID-19[feminine] pandemic, has undermined decades of progress in improving global food security.

Worsening humanitarian crises in 2021 have also led to an increasing number of countries at risk of famine. Of the total number of undernourished people in 2020, more than half live in Asia (418 million) and a third in Africa (282 million).

“There is a component coming from this COVID crisis, and there is a high risk now because of the war in Ukraine that we will see major hunger problems,” adds Professor Taalas.

· Shift :

Hazards related to water-related events continued to contribute to internal displacement. The countries with the highest number of displacements recorded in October 2021 were China (over 1.4 million), the Philippines (over 386,000) and Viet Nam (over 664,000).

Melvin B. Baillie